Game Buzz: Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile

Ever since the release of Vast: The Crystal Caverns, Leder Games has been been a publisher I’ve been keeping an eye on as they’re really doing some interesting stuff. The release of Root a couple of years ago was a massive hit for them, and now the same team is producing

image by BGG user fencedingates

Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile is the latest project from Leder Games and designer Cole Wehrle (the designer of Root). In this 1-6 player game, players will be building an empire over a number of games, with choices made in one experience affecting future ones. But it’s not a legacy game – you’re simply saving the game state after a session ends and picking up the story from there next time. It’s currently funding (funded) on Kickstarter, and you probably won’t see it until early next year.

Oath is a bigger game than Root was – bigger box, more cards, over 100 wooden pieces, and with a roll-up neoprene mat rather than a board. In the first game, most players will be Exiles, trying to build themselves up. One player will always be chosen to be the Chancellor, who can do a number of things, including making Exiles into Citizens. The Chancellor starts the game with two favor tokens and one magic token, and gets to place warbands in various spaces around the board. The Exiles get one favor token, and get their own warbands on their Effort Track and Warbands section. Every player gets three denizen cards from the bottom of the deck, of which one will be kept facedown to the right of their player board, and the others discarded. Players put their pawns at any face up site on the map, with the Chancellor placing on the first site of the Cradle.

image from Kickstarter project page

Players take turns, beginning with the Chancellor. There are three phases to a turn: Influence, Actions, and Cleanup.

INFLUENCE: Choose a card at your site, and gain favors if you can. If you don’t have a face up card of the same suit, gain one favor. If you do have a face up card of the same suit, gain two favors or one magic. If the suit supply of the chosen card has no favors left, you get no favors.

ACTIONS: Here, you’ll take up to three actions (or just two if you’re the Chancellor). You could:

  • Travel. Move your pawn to a different site. This is done by spending Effort. You can take warbands with you, but one must be left in a site you own.
  • Muster. Spend an Effort, then choose a card at your site that has no favor or magic on it. You can then place as many favors as you want on it and gain two warbands for each.
  • Play. Spend any amount of Effort, then draw twice that number of cards. Of the cards you drew, you may play one and discard the rest. It can be played to the site you’re in (unless that site is full), or you can play it to the right of your player board, face up or face down. This is known as your cohort.
  • Campaign. This is your war action, and there’s a lot to it. Put simply, you’re trying to gain enough of a Military Advantage to defeat a defender.
  • Rest. Move your Effort marker all the way to the left and discard any number of cards from your cohort.

CLEANUP: All favor on cards returns to the supply, as does magic. If you have completed your Oath, you’ll score victory points. Oaths could be to rule the most sites (Oath of Supremacy), hold the Darkest Secret privilege (Oath of Devotion), hold the Royal Blessing privilege (Oath of Protection), or have the most popular support (Oath of the People).

The game ends after the eighth round. However, after the fifth, sixth, and seventh rounds, the Chancellor makes a die roll to see if it ends early. Also, there are Visions that could end the game instantly.

image by BGG user kanissus

Root got a lot of buzz for being complex and reminiscent of the COIN game system used in many wargames. Oath is getting buzz because it seems very unique, especially in how the game changes each time you play it based on decisions from the last time. This is done by the winner of a game vowing an Oath that will carry over. Any site card not garrisoned by the winner is removed and shuffled into the deck. Six new cards will be added to the deck, while six other cards are removed. The map can be saved by stacking cards in order, and you’re ready to play again.

There’s a lot going on in this game, which I’ve been interested in hearing more about since Cole Wehrle started talking about it a few months ago. There’s an interesting design diary he  has been running on BGG, which you should check out if you’re interested in learning more. I’m interested in the concept because it seems like an anti-legacy game that tries to create narrative without making permanent changes. I’m very interested to learn more.

Anyway, that’s it for today. Thanks for reading!

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